If R&D’s reexamination of Magic’s color wheel has a flaw, it’s with White – while I agree with it in principle, the juxtaposition of a fine army of small creatures with the new”primarily defensive” nature of White’s best spells just doesn’t mesh well. It’s akin to having Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders in the same backfield and then giving them a second-string high school offensive line to run behind.
White has been given the”tax” ability, and more fliers. This smacks of the realization that the new color wheel has a major hole in it, and if we borrow this from Blue and this from Green, no one will notice that the emperor is wearing a G-string.
What made mono-White, or, more specifically, White Weenie, so effective was the two powerful (and pro-active) disruption spells, Swords to Plowshares and Armageddon. The Plow cleared the way for blockers, and Armageddon crippled an opponent’s mana base -and when your mana base topped out at two, Armageddon was little more than a nuisance. Those are now out of favor for the new White, in favor of such fare as Turn the Tables.
When there is no proactive disruption available to White, it becomes a weak color, a poor man’s Sligh. It can hit for a few points early, but then stalls out when confronted with the likes of Wrath of God, Oblivion Stone, or Siege-Gang Commander. When White has access to cards like Parallax Wave, Cursed Scroll and the like, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. When Whipcorder and Pacifism are what passes for disruption – I shudder at the thought.
Brian Kibler recently posited that with the release of Darksteel and the I-can’t-believe-it’s-a-three-dollar-uncommon Skullclamp, White Weenie, or, more accurately,”Equipped White” (somebody find a cool name for the deck!) is primed to take a run at Tier 1-dom. I agree… to a point.
Even with the incredible card advantage that Skullclamp can provide, the deck still has the disruption problem – it barely has any. It depends upon beatdown and even if it runs the likes of Second Sunrise and Pacifism, if you can’t win via combat damage, you can’t win.
To solve this problem and make weenie White dangerous again, another color must be added. But which one? Black could provide a discard element and the likes of Terror and Dark Banishing. Green…skip that. The Wakefieldian fatties aren’t too big on disruption. Blue shows promise with splashable counters and bounce.
But Red – WW/r decks aren’t unique in Magic’s history, most recently with the close-to-competitive Invasion-era decks packing Goblin Legionnaire and Goblin Trenches, and the ability to splash burn that can either eliminate a creature or go straight to the dome fits the bill of”proactive disruption.” It’s better than Whipcorder, that’s for sure.
Hence, this deck:
4 Savannah Lions
4 Auriok Steelshaper
4 Leonin Shikari
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Silver Knight
1 Leonin Scimitar
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Chrome Mox
3 City of Brass
2 Mirrodin’s Core
4 Great Furnace
4 Ancient Den
3 Second Sunrise
3 Sulfuric Vortex
2 Circle of Protection: Red
That’s another bonus of running Red: we don’t get stuck relying on White’s suddenly suboptimal anti-artifact spells like the four-mana Altar’s Light – no, we have the full suite of Red’s hate. Why Shatter and not Echoing Ruin? Because it would really suck to blow up your own Skullclamps, that’s why, and, golly gee whiz, what are the odds of running into other decks running that card?
The deck usually works like so: Drop a few creatures early, get in the beats, use Skullclamp to draw oodles of cards, finish an opponent off with burn to the dome. Shrapnel Blast is simply amazing in this deck, which is the main reason why I’m running artifact lands; to ensure that I can get one off. The presence of artifact lands does open you up to possibly getting smoked by a R/G landkill deck with Molder Slugs or Akroma’s Vengeance, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take to ensure that I can get off a Shrapnel Blast when I need it. Most often it functions as an instant-speed Lava Axe, but it also serves to ground Exalted Angels on occasion. This high powered burn also gives the deck a little more long-term staying power, whereas previously, if you hadn’t managed to overrun your opponent by turn 6, your odds of winning decreased considerably with each card you drew.
Shock is an all-purpose weenie killer, mostly intended to clear the way early for your creatures, clearing out a key Goblin Warchief or Frogmite, for example.
The mana base is currently nineteen lands and four Chrome Mox – more than enough to fuel a deck that tops out at three mana. The problem with making this weenie White deck two colors is that you increase the risk of mana screw, but with the various multi-lands, it’s not a tremendous problem, and there aren’t too many doubles in any casting costs. I wish I had Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] for the deck, but, alas, I must make do with City of Brass and Mirrodin’s Core. The City count may go up to four, as the deck has Sligh sensibilities; it’ll deal twenty damage to you long before damage from the Cities become problematic. Mirrodin’s Core I’m not sold on as yet: there are times where I need colored mana immediately and this doesn’t provide it.
Equipment is what makes this deck tick, so we need enough to ensure that we draw some early. Skullclamp not only shines in weenie decks, but it makes this deck not only viable, but actually scary. When I tried building Equipped White before Darksteel, I used Chrome Mox for mana acceleration, which the deck desperately needed to be competitive, but the loss of card advantage proved to be, well, disadvantageous. Skullclamp now gives you the ability to counterbalance the loss of card advantage with its card drawing ability; hence, you keep the speed without the drawback. Believe me, a turn 1 Silver Knight or Auriok Steelshaper, followed by a Skullclamp or Bonesplitter on turn 2 makes a tremendous difference.
Unfortunately, the presence of Skullclamp has led to my persistently bad impression of”Clamps,” member of the feared Robot Mafia as seen on Futurama. This got old about the third time I used it, which, of course, has not deterred me from attempting to improve it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, me and Joey Mousepad here have to see a man about a pair of overshoes.
The lone Leonin Scimitar seems like an odd choice, but I felt the deck needed at least one more piece of Equipment, so it fit the bill. Why the Scimitar, and not Lightning Greaves? It was a difficult call (and I reserve the right to possibly change my mind later), but it’s all about casting cost. The only one-drop creature I have is Savannah Lions. Most of my creatures are two drops. I don’t want to be dropping Equipment when I should be dropping a warm body, and the Scimitar grants a valuable power bonus. Still, the ability to use the combine Leonin Shikari with the Greaves is worth considering if the metagame shifts towards more pinpoint creature removal.
Any other Equipment isn’t worth considering. Loxodon Warhammer? You’ll be dead by the time it makes a difference. It’s just too expensive. Golem-Skin Gauntlets? Don’t provide enough bang for the buck. Whispersilk Cloak is also too expensive, and as strange as it sounds, +2/+0 is a lot better than untargetability and unblockability.
Which reminds me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while playing this deck, it’s mulligan aggressively. You must have early drops and at least one piece of Equipment in your opening draw, preferably a Skullclamp. If you don’t, throw it back, as this deck cannot win without Equipment. I’m almost to the point where I’ll mulligan a draw that doesn’t have a Skullclamp in it, but that’s probably a bit too draconian.
The creature base has no surprises – well, maybe a few head scratchers, but no real surprises. Why Savannah Lions over Auriok Glaivemaster? Because I can feed the kitties to the Clamps, that why. Auriok Glaivemaster and Leonin Shikari let you have fun with Equipment in combat (hence the name of the deck), and the old man of the group, Silver Knight – hey, pro-Red, do I have to say any more? First strike; that’s just gravy.
If there was one card I’d like to replace, it’d be Raise the Alarm, but I haven’t found another good Soldier or Knight that I like in this slot. White Knight is a possibility, if Black creature-based decks become popular. Raise the Alarm does have the advantage of making excellent Skullclamp fodder, which is why it will probably stay where it is.
How does this deck fare against the current Big Three metagame of Affinity, U/W Control and Goblin-Bidding? Skullclamp has destroyed the U/W Control archetype as we know it. Whereas U/W has traditionally been built around the concept of card advantage via drawing, the most recent take on the archetype depends upon generating card advantage via massive amounts of global kill. Skullclamp means that U/W is losing that battle, turning what was a strength into a weakness. Wrath, where is thy sting?
Suffice it to say, that even when Annul is moved to the maindeck to try and defeat the clamped menace, the battle is firmly on the side of the angry kitties.
Goblins and Goblin-Bidding is about 50/50. If you get an early Silver Knight with a bit of Equipment, you can beat Goblins at their own game. Your creatures, strictly speaking, are better than their creatures – at least, better before the Siege-Gang Commander makes an appearance. Circle of Protection: Red may evolve into the more versatile Scrabbling Claws to defeat Gob-Bidding, if that becomes the preferred archetype of the red menace.
There are so many different builds of Affinity, it’s hard to pick one to test against. The control-heavy version falters against this build due to the speed element. The aggro version fares better, if it can play out Myr Enforcers and Broodstars quickly. If not, the crunchy Frog will not put up much of a spirited defense. The matchup is somewhat even, skewed slightly towards Affinity, and really comes down to whether or not you can kill the Affinity player before they play out Broodstars.
Of course, this metagame has pretty much been blown up. Affinity decks are going from Blue-centric to Red-centric and becoming much more aggressive. Goblins have new power thanks to the Clamps, and U/W Control is all but dead in its current configuration. Elves are becoming viable again, MBC is lurking at the edges, and somebody’s going to find a way to make the various indestructible cards into a viable deck.
Pulse of the Fields is nothing short of amazing in any control deck running White, accordingly, Sulfuric Vortex may need to go to the maindeck. Equipment, what this deck needs to work, may be destroyed by maindeck Annul, Shatter or even the likes of Turn to Dust or Unforge. Ritual of Restoration may find a home in the sideboard to recover those needed Skullclamps or Bonesplitters. Second Sunrise, which was included as a nod against cards like Wrath of God and Akroma’s Vengeance, may no longer be needed in the sideboard, but if R/W Slide decks make a comeback, as predicted, there may be a few slots available for Stabilizer. Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] is also a possible addition as a finisher, but I’m already dubious of Sulfuric Vortex’s double-Red requirement, adding additional cards with two red mana symbols in the upper right hand corner may be asking for trouble.
If Regionals was this weekend, I would probably run this deck. But it isn’t, and the metagame can and will evolve to account for this archetype. I don’t know if this is going to be the deck to play, but it must be accounted for, for it will be there. As a Tier 1 deck or rogue deck against the metagame, that has yet to be determined.